LOGAN, The Perfect Mystery
Queensland Bush Mysteries —
No. 3 —
|| Collison fired a shot over their heads to frighten them ||
NO mystery of t h e lonely Queensland bush presents more perplexing features than that which surrounded the death of Captain Patrick Logan, Commandant of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement.
This occurred in October, 1830, near Mt. Irwin, in the Ipswich district. There are still open three theories to account for his mur- der, and one circumstance, at least, has never been satisfac- torily explained. First the three theories. These may be stated:— (1) That Logan was killed by the blacks in an unprovoked on- slaught. (2) That Logan was killed by the blacks, instigated by escaped con-
victs in revenge for his treatment of them at the settlement. (3) That Logan was guilty of some action which aroused the murderous instincts of the blacks, or of escaped prisoners who were with them. The circumstance which has
never been explained, which, in fact, has been glossed over in al- most all historical accounts of Logan's murder, is the curious fact that the commandant, having told his party that he would join them after nightfall, made no efiort to do so. In fact there was abundant evi- dence that he had deliberately re- frained from joining them, having unsaddled, and watered, and teth- ered his horse, and having occupied a native bark hut. That fact was included in the official report of Logan's death, and is on record in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. There can be little doubt that its suppression in historical accounts was the work of apologists for Logan, whose severity and cruelty towards the convicts under his ad- ministration, constituted one of the greatest blots on the whole penal system. There must have been some knowledge held by Clunes, who succeeded Logan, concerning that strange circumstance of his spend- ing the night away from his party. Yet in his report to the Sydney Government Governor Ralph Dar- ling in Sydney Clunies is content to make only brief references to a fact which, at the time, was re- garded as extraordinary. It was conduct most unlike Logan, who was a stickler for rou- tine, and punctilious in his atti- tude to his duties, and insistent upon similar punctiliousness in all those who served him. Logan had actually concluded his service as administrator in Bris- bane after occupying the com- mandancy for four years. If his rule was almost barbarous in its cruelty, Logan nevertheless per- formed a notable public service in his survey work in the areas sur- rounding Brisbane. Darling gave his name to the river he discovered, the river which to-day is mostly distinguished by the perpetual nature of its toll, pay- able on the bridge which crosses it. The commandant left the Bris- bane settlement on October 8 to make a final survey for the com- pletion of his Moreton Bay chart. He went by way of the river to Limestone (Ipswich), taking with him a boat's crew and a private ser- vant. The accounts vary slightly, but it appears that the party used the river for about 15 miles beyond Limestone. and then left it to make for the Pine Range and Mt. Irwin. On October 10 occurred the first encounter with the blacks, which might support the theory that Logan's death was due merely to an unprovoked attack by the natives. UPWARDS of 200 of them appeared on a hill close to which the party had to pass, which was on the Lime- stone side of the river. The blacks began throwing and rolling stones down on the party, but did not hurl their spears. Captain Logan was in advance, but was obliged by the natives to fall back. Collison, his servant, fired a shot over their heads to frighten them. This, for a time, had the de- sired effect, but while the party were in the act of crossing the river the natives closed in again. Collison again fired a shot over their heads and they sheered off. The blacks appeared to know Logan
and kept calling 'Comidy water!', meaning the commandant should go back to the other side of the river. All day the blacks followed the party, using the trees and long grass for cover. After this, however, they appeared to have gone away. Until October 16, when Logan or- dered the return to Limestone, no- thing more was seen of them. On the following day, which was Sun- day, Logan fixed a site for a camp to be made that night and told his party that he would meet them there after nightfall. Then about 9 o'clock in the morn- ing he went off alone in the direc- tion of Mount Irwin. The party pushed on to the spot previously indicated by the com- mandant and there made camp. All that night the party awaited the commandant, and his servant was considerably disturbed at his failure to reach the rendezvous. EARLY on the next morning two men went back to the spot where the command- ant had ridden off by himself, but they returned to the main party without having discovered anything. All set off for Limestone, believ- ing it possible that Logan had gone there. His servant, however, was convinced that he had not done so, knowing the regularity of his mas- ter's habits. Again blacks appeared, but beyond a considerable amount of yelling and jabbering did not molest the men. At Limestone there was no word of Logan, and another party was immediately organised. This party, which left on Oc- tober 21, found a space where Logan's horse had been tethered and had eaten. There were also hoof and footprints where Logan had taken his horse to water and where he had roasted some chest- nuts at a fire produced at the stump of a tree. No marks sug- gesting a struggle or violence were found by this party, which returned to the Limestone station without having seen a blackfellow all the way. • Continued in Page 11
Logan, The Perfect Mystery Continued from Page 9
AS Logan was still missing yet other parties were sent to make a thorough search. One consisted of five soldiers of the 57th Regiment (Logan's regiment) and 12 prison- ers. Taking another direction a special party under the surgeon, Cowper, set out. These expeditions were a little more successful, but did not succeed in establishing Logan's fate. His servant, Collison, found his saddle, with the stirrups cut off as if by a native stone axe, about 10 miles from the point where Logan had left his party. Near to this place also was the space where Logan's horse had been tethered to a tree. There was evidence that he had slept on some grass in a native gunyah, and where he had roasted some chestnuts, the first search party having displayed indifferent intelligence not to have followed obvious clues. However, these expeditions could find nothing more, and it was hoped that riding bareback without even the bridle on his horse Logan may have escaped the blacks who, it was believed, had attacked him. Cowper continued his search for some days, and on October 28 he found the body of Logan's horse in a creek covered with boughs. Only one broken spear was found,
and about ten yards from the opposite bank of the creek Captain Logans body was discovered in a very shallow grave. The back of the head had been beaten in and the feet, which had been exposed, had been mutilated by dingoes. Near by were found papers torn in pieces, his boots, and a part of his waistcoat stained with blood. Those are the facts of Logan's death as they have been recorded. What was the story behind the killing? While immediate circum- stantial evidence suggested a murder by the blacks there was never any proof, and one fact alone suggests that the hand of at least, one white man was in the murder. The blacks in those days were extremely primitive, and the burial of their victims was not a custom. The attempts to hide the body — insufficient as they were — suggested the handiwork of the white. There was no dearth of escapees one or more of whom could have murdered Logan. Records of the Brisbane and Limestone settlements show that in the course of a single month as many as 30 prisoners would abscond, and while many of them were re-
captured or gave themselves up a very great number were never caught, and there may have been half a dozen such men wandering with the blacks in the Limestone area. As for motive, the hatred of these prisoners for Logan would supply an abundance of it. But the intriguing part of the Logan mystery will always be why he went to a native hut of his own accord and spent a night after telling his party that he would join them later. What took him there, to a place which, at the brightest description, was the very roughest and most primitive shelter? Had he any intention of doing otherwise when he told his party that he would join them at night- fall? And, if not, what caused him to change his mind? Did he have an arrangement to meet anybody at that lonely hut? It is these questions which make of Logan's death a mystery im- penetrable, an intriguing basis for analysis and deduction, an almost classic set-up for the perfect mystery story. • NEXT SUNDAY: Leich- hardt.